Under-20 Women's World Cup: USA handed soccer lesson

The USA's problems at the youth level of women's soccer continued in Papua New Guinea.

Yes, it reached the semifinals at the 2016 Under-20 Women's World Cup.

And, yes, it took North Korea to overtime.

But it was badly outplayed and lost, 2-1, in a match it was outshot, 25-7.

In the quarterfinals against Mexico, USA was lucky to survive, getting late goals from Ally Watt and Kelcie Hedge to win, 2-1, after being outshot, 15-4.

Against North Korea, the USA trailed, 1-0, in the 89th minute when out of nowhere Natalie Jacobs latched on to an errant clearance and lobbed the ball into the goal for an improbable equalizer.

But if there was any hope of a repeat of the Mexico game, North Korea ended that by scoring off the kickoff to start overtime.

The diminutive Sung Hyang Sim, the winner of the Silver Ball at the 2016 Under-17 Women's World Cup North Korea, broke in on goal and laid the ball off to the streaking Ri Hyang Sim, who chipped U.S. keeper Casey Murphy.

The rest of overtime was spent with the USA desperately holding on to avoid an onslaught. North Korea not only had a big edge in shots, it played the better soccer, showed incredible stamina and and physically dominated the Americans, earning four yellow cards.

The USA's midfield play was again nonexistant, and attacking stars Mallory Pugh, Ashley Sanchez and Emily Fox were rendered largely invisible.

North Korea, winner of the 2006 U-20 Women's World Cup, is back in the final for the first time since losing to the USA with Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Meghan Klingenberg and Alyssa Naeher, 2-1, in 2008.

In 2014, North Korea beat the USA in a shootout in the quarterfinals only to fall to Nigeria, 6-2, in the semifinals.

Nov. 25 in Port Moresby
USA 1 North Korea 2. Goals: Jacobs 88; Yon pen. 50, R. Hyang Sim 91.
USA -- Murphy;  Elliston, Otto, Riehl, Jean (Hedge 71), Fox (Watt 66; Petersen 91), Ogle, Jacobs, Cousins (Scarpa 78), Pugh, Sanchez.
North Korea -- Sun, U. Sol Gyong, C. Sol Gyong, W. Jong Sim (R. Kyong Hyang 75), R. Hyang Sim, K. Phyong Hwa (A Snog Ok 95), Yon, Yong, K. Un Hwa (S. Hyang Sim 66), J. Hyo Sim, Hyang (C. Un Hwa 75).

23 comments about "Under-20 Women's World Cup: USA handed soccer lesson".
  1. Joe Linzner, November 29, 2016 at 9:13 a.m.

    It is a parallel with the US Men's team. As Americans we assume we are athletically better than any nation on earth. So why worry about technical aspects? When we run into any team that matches our athleticism and which also has technical acumen, both on and off the ball, we labor and resort to boot and hope! Sorry to see that all levels and genders stress athleticism, size and strength in lieu of guile and command of the ball tempered by vision.

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, November 30, 2016 at 6:33 a.m.

    Mallory Pugh, 5' 4"
    Crystal Dunn, 5' 1"
    Meghan Klingenberg, 5' 2"
    Katie Cousins, 5' 0"
    Ashley Sanchez, 5' 3"

    Have I made my point?

  3. R2 Dad, November 29, 2016 at 9:23 a.m.

    This is what happens when you build a team to beat 90% of your opponents instead of the top 10%. On the whole the numbers look good, coaches don't get fired, but we're still losing in the big tournaments.

  4. Mike Calcaterra, November 29, 2016 at 9:38 a.m.

    Sunil Gulati. His decisions have over the last two years have failed address serious issues in the national teams and national team development. When the entire federation is deteriorating, you do not start with the janitors. You start at the top.

    Our national teams of both genders and most ages are failing on the world stage. There are some excuses for the MNT and the coaching change was long overdue, but the failures of the others is inexcusable.

  5. j bapper, November 29, 2016 at 9:49 a.m.

    Let's face it... the best women's teams from the rest of the world have caught and passed us in technical superiority and tactics. Our coaching at the youth level is so poor but there is no accountability so it will continue to deteriorate. I agree with Mark Calcat it starts at the top with Sunil Gulati. Until he and all his coaching cronies are gone, this is what we're going to get.

  6. Othon Castillo, November 29, 2016 at 10:40 a.m.

    This is all true. Change is needed at the top. However, our youth coaches need to focus on player development, not wins and loses. Not only that, but the parents need to be on board with technical development (long term gains) is more important than wins (short term rewards)

  7. Rich Gaites, November 29, 2016 at 11:51 a.m.

    The youth players who rise to the top are self motivated. They are the only ones who take what they learn at practice into the streets. They want to play with and against the best. The only way to get more of them is to expand the player pool. Instead, we have allowed the greed of clubs and coaches to reduce the pool. The middle class parents are being conned with promises. The worst is that their child can't reach their potential w/o great coaching. Could a young Pele afford to play today? I have suggested to USYSA that they promote travel teams with volunteer parent-coaches. This was the model when I started coaching in the 1970's. We played for fun and never charged a dime. Even today, the older coaches realize that we have as much fun as the kids. The younger coaches are charging between $110 and $200 dollars an hour every time they show their faces.

  8. Doug Lister, November 29, 2016 at 12:11 p.m.

    I just got done watching the game. Would it seem like sour grapes if I questioned the age of the North Korean Women? Our team looks like college kids and most of the Koreans look like adults, not to mention that some of them appear quite masculine. It kind of reminds me of the East German Women in the 70's and early 80's.

  9. Mark Botterill, November 29, 2016 at 12:39 p.m.

    If you want answers to your questions go to tomsan.com. An American Coach, Tom Byer working his magic in Asia.

    The solution lays in engaging the first time player be it 2 ,3 4, 5 with the desire to play with the ball at home, small ball small foot.

    Not games, but parents engaging with their child at the earliest opportunity. "Soccer begins at home".

    Although the North Koreans likely where more a U23 team the technical levels can't be ignored either against North Korea or the 17's out possessed 71-29 three weeks ago in the U17 World Cup.

    The soccer narrative will expand when folks wake up to the huge cost of medical care, 2.6 trillion dollars of GDP in 2015 due to poor health that can be addressed by soccer teaching best practices in health, well being and physical activity at the earliest age.

    A sidebar will be that we will initiate a passion for ball skills and not start 6 years behind everyone else.

    Sunil and others have been aware of Tom Byer for years and have not had the discipline to engage him to work on the huge vacuum in our game that is our technical competance.

  10. John Soares, November 29, 2016 at 1:14 p.m.

    Questioning the age of the North Koreans without any evidence is worse than simple sour grapes. It's poor sportsmanship, false accuser, looking for excuses (pointing the finger) elsewhere instead of looking in the mirror. Fact is the USA, win or lose, played poorly.... We are not going to find top players "playing in the streets". Those streets where Pele, and others learned the game are now paved and full of cars. A couple of years ago a top youth coach IN BRAZIL said "..... today's kids no longer have the passion all they want to do is watch TV". TV!? Just wait until they all have a phone in their pocket and an Xbox at home. Todays coaches must learn to train AND motivate "today's" kids and stop dreaming about the past that is long gone. Today's top "world" players, IE: Ronaldo, Messi were in organized soccer from the time they were 6 to 10 years old. Fix the coaching and the kids, passion, and ability will take care of itself.

  11. Kevin Sims replied, November 29, 2016 at 4:07 p.m.

    Welcome to the Age of "Rigged" ... whatever doesn't go your way is the result of everything being "Rigged" ... personal accountability & personal responsibility & meeting reality head on = so last generation ... the fixed mindset fixes nothing

  12. Will G, November 29, 2016 at 3:29 p.m.

    There are a lot of things worse than losing in the semi final of a World Cup. Most soccer rich countries would cheer any of their teams for reaching a semi - and we aren't exactly a soccer rich nation. I am not saying we don't have our issues - but please, some of you need to get a grip.

  13. Bob Ashpole, November 29, 2016 at 5:13 p.m.

    Number of shots is, like possession in your half, a meaningless statistic. Shots on frame is a better comparison. The US outplayed Korea initially in the first half when fresh. The balance began to swing Korea's way in the last 20 minutes of the half. As the match continued the US play deteriorated and Korea's play improved as space opened up for them. The situation was aggravated by the penalty. It was also aggravated by vicious fouls by a few Korean players, causing the US to play short handed repeatedly. The referee finally showed No. 19 a yellow card after her 3rd elbow to the head of a US player, that I saw, and her "accidental" elbows stopped. One player left the match due to head injury. Another should have. By late in the second half the US defense was best described as ragged. The US was exhausted in overtime. I cannot get too upset about being outplayed in such a manner. Fitness can be correct in a couple of months. It is not a serious issue like poor touch would be. Training won't prevent elbows to the head and bad officiating. So you concentrate on what you can control.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, November 30, 2016 at 6:03 a.m.

    The US looked the better team for the first 30 minutes.

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, November 30, 2016 at 6:11 a.m.

    Anyone who watched the match would understand what the basis of my opinion is. They might not agree with my opinion, but they would understand my point.

  16. Mitch Conklin replied, November 30, 2016 at 9:49 a.m.

    Overall the officiating was TERRIBLE in this tournament. TOO MANY fouls went uncalled and I saw few fouls that could have merited RED cards that weren't even called. Nevertheless, the glaring deficiencies that so many have highlighted must be addressed and it seems that as long as Gulati is at the helm, that won't occur. Despite his impressive credentials, Gulati appears to be the wrong man for the job. A major restructuring is necessary.

  17. Kris Spyrka, November 29, 2016 at 7:36 p.m.

    Joe Linzner at the top of this thread got it right. We stress athleticism over skill. I recently attended a US Soccer certification, our instructor (Uruguayan) had strong opinions about this, to paraphrase, he said, "we need to stop training horses." I knew exactly what he meant, go to any ODP or PDP tryout and you know what he means. Tall, strong, fast kids, but no first touch if their very lives depended on it. Tryouts usually consist of, who can pummel and come out on top in 1v1, and then let's see how the same kids fair in a full field scrimmage. I asked an acquaintance of mine in Germany (U19, and U23 coach for a Bundesliga Club) what I could do with my U14 girls going forward, his advice was have them eat, sleep and breath Coerver. We are talking about someone who goes back and does this with his pro players. This is nothing new, and we as coaches mostly know better, but practicing it is another matter.

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, November 30, 2016 at 6:21 a.m.

    Kris, what coaches work on during their contact time is not the critical factor. It is what the players do outside the contract time that is critical. Coaches can attempt to motivate them, but their future skills are going to be a function of how much they practice. Internal motivation is probably the most important trait of an elite athlete. Just 10-20 minutes a day of skill work makes a huge difference over the long run.

  19. David Huff, November 29, 2016 at 11:08 p.m.

    This is the consequence of American club soccer and the USSF programs such as that encourage "big girl" soccer over players who possesss greater technical skills but are not so athletically dominating in a physical sense. A more techically skilled player doesnt stand a chance of making it through ODP and other USSF programs which are fed by "big girl" clubs like Surf, Arsenal etc. This approach only worked earlier because most countries did not encourage or support their women in playing, that has now changed.

  20. aaron dutch, November 29, 2016 at 11:32 p.m.

    Lets be honest the girls/woman's program is being run as separate teams & our overall program is underperforming vs.the amount we invest. The US spends over a $billion a year on girls/women's soccer at all levels (rec, youth club, advanced club, high school, Indoor, ODP, NCAA, National Team, Semi & Pro) my guess is we spend about 1/4 of all the $ spent on women's/girls soccer and we lose every torney we are in from the National team to the U-15's the last year. Its the fact we refuse to build a real pyramid with a system of play, doctrine of coaching & drive to standards in technical/tactical.

  21. Mitch Conklin, November 30, 2016 at 9:53 a.m.

    Jakes' observations about Mexico are extremely trenchant. But they also show that the USA's problem is not purely one of lack of ball skills; part of it is poor coaching.

  22. aaron dutch, November 30, 2016 at 1:27 p.m.

    Jake has great points, we have a NIMBY world view, and are unwilling to see that other programs make progress with .1-2% of our spending. Colombia, North Korea, Japan, etc.. We then give excuses that our kids are so busy and have so many choices (like smartphones, social media & crazy parents are limited to US kids:) then our excuse is we don't have magic water like they do for football/soccer(whatever that means) many of these countries have just started funding & developing the woman's game and don't have full blown programs down to the youth level yet and they are getting results because they use the best practices in academy & youth development (technical, tactical, football IQ, development reps vs. match reps etc..) I can see a team like Colombia going from 75th to 25th (they have already) then 25th to 15th in the next 5 years that is a massive improvement in 10 years and if they really invest could be a top 10 team in the next 10 years. Also, a better gage is if we measure our overall performance of U-15 to National Team (that is the pipeline for the next 5-10 years) we are not the best anymore and we are going to drop when we lose & don't even get to the finals of almost every tourney the last year. We spend 25-50% of all the $ spent on women's football but its like national defense if you just spend money without a vision/strategy/roadmap/competitive skills plan etc.. then its just a jobs program without return on investment.

  23. aaron dutch, November 30, 2016 at 1:50 p.m.

    We don't even field a beach or futsal woman's team or girls team. We should be funding this for all of CONCACAF and getting our region better to make the competition better. Until we care about the technical/tactical improvement over powerball we will slowly just lose a little more every 5 years. Our men don't have a beach team and lose to CANADA in futsal (good job Canada:)

    Our Prior Results: With U-20 results.




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